Former Bulldog Tra Battle back in Athens, enjoying life after football

Tra Battle’s second go-round in Athens is playing out a little differently.

Football has been replaced by family. Working out has given way to work. And the drive down Highway 316 isn’t a path to a party in Atlanta, it’s a commute from his home in Duluth.

The former Bulldogs All-American and NFL safety re-enrolled at Georgia in the spring and finished up his bachelor’s degree in child and family development. Now Battle, a 27-year-old husband and father of four, is a pre-med student and aspiring anesthesiologist.

“It really is easier the second time around, though,” Battle said of returning to school after spending part of three seasons between the NFL’s San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns and a stint in the United Football League. “I knew I had to study, but when I was an athlete, I knew I had a big game coming up and might not study because of that or because I wanted to go to this party this weekend. School was pretty much on the back burner. The second time around, school is the main priority. It’s actually easier, and I figured out this amazing thing — if you actually read the textbook, you can get an A.”

Battle hasn’t cut all his football ties. He stays in touch with many of his former coaches, including Georgia head coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who was an assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys when Battle played for the team. Battle hasn’t been able to attend a Georgia football game since he last played against West Virginia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl, but that will change today as he has been named an honorary captain for the Georgia-Ole Miss game.

“I’m glad that the situation I’m in now kind of lends itself to getting back into that environment more,” Battle said. “This will be the first time I’ll be a spectator at a Georgia game, and it’s definitely an environment where everyone is still friendly.”

Battle’s wife, Luisa, is a pre-nursing student at Gwinnett College, and they have four children, 7-year-old Tre, 5-year-old Tayte, 4-year-old Natalie and 2-year-old Emmanuel. The life experience Battle has picked up along the way has made the balancing act a bit easier as he drives to Athens most days, attends classes, works as an operating-room anesthesiology tech at Athens Regional Hospital and returns home shortly before midnight.

“Playing professionally, you have to study, take notes and list to lectures from a coach,” Battle said. “The only difference is I’m not watching film. But the rest is the same. I think it’s a bit of maturation and having had a full-time job, even if it was playing football, to show me what it takes to get job done when coming back to school.”

Battle stumbled into his chosen career path as a sophomore at Mary Persons High in Forsyth. His typing instructor noticed he was getting ahead of the lesson and, trying to keep him occupied, gave him a book, told him to pick a career out of it and write a report on it. On the first page, he stumbled across anesthesiologist.

“I just read about it and thought it was interesting,” Battle said. “And so since my sophomore year of high school, I wanted to be an anesthesiologist.”

That goal has helped Battle transition from professional sports to a new career path, a move that he said many athletes struggle to navigate successfully.

“It wasn’t ever really a big goal of mine to play professional football, so when i did it, I just said that I didn’t want to look back in 10 or 15 years and say I probably could have but didn’t try,” Battle said. “I went in with those intentions and just wanted to have some great stories to tell and wanted to have some great experiences. But I think that’s a problem for a lot of professional athletes. I’ve been playing football since I was 7, and this is the first time I’m not playing football in 20 years. I think a lot of guys, when they transition, they find they let football define them. It wasn’t my identity. I always wanted to be a doctor, so I’m just back on that path and it wasn’t a hard transition to make. Luckily, I still have other goals and things I want to accomplish.”

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